Clinton Favors Future Human Spaceflight

Manned landings on Mars are the long-term goal of President Bush's plan for the future of human spaceflight. Astronauts would first land on the moon.
Manned landings on Mars are the long-term goal of President Bush's plan for the future of human spaceflight. Astronauts would first land on the moon. (By Buena Vista Pictures)
By Marc Kaufman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 23, 2007

The major presidential candidates pummel each other daily on issues ranging from the Iraq war to health care. But when it comes to President Bush's ambitious initiative to send humans back to the moon and on to Mars, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) is all but alone in staking out a formal position -- and it's one that lends support to key aspects of the president's effort.

She initially outlined the need for a "robust" human spaceflight program last month during a Washington speech on science policy, despite being broadly critical of the Bush administration's record on scientific issues.

The question of future manned space exploration took on greater prominence this week when Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) made clear that he is not enamored with NASA's effort to build a new spacecraft to take astronauts to the moon and beyond.

In a position paper on education unveiled in New Hampshire, Clinton's rival advocated delaying for five years the program to build the new multibillion-dollar Constellation spacecraft and using the savings to fund a variety of education initiatives.

Asked for a response, Clinton spokesman Isaac Baker said, "Senator Clinton does not support delaying the Constellation program and intends to maintain American leadership in space exploration."

The Republican National Committee also criticized Obama. Spokesman Danny Diaz said in a statement: "It is ironic that Barack Obama's plan to help our children reach for the stars is financed in part by slashing a program that helps us learn about those very same stars."

But Republican presidential candidates have also been less than effusive about the Bush space initiative.

When asked about their candidates' positions on the moon-Mars project, a spokeswoman for Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) did not respond, while one for former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani said, "I'm not sure anything is out there on this subject."

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney's campaign responded by providing an article from the Florida Today newspaper that said: "During the first campaign visit to the Space Coast by a 2008 presidential candidate, Republican Mitt Romney said he supports Bush's vision for space exploration and has no reason yet to propose a new direction."

Former senator John Edwards (N.C.), who is vying with Clinton and Obama for the Democratic nomination, said in a statement: "We need a balanced space and aeronautics program. We need to support solar system exploration as an important goal for our human and robotic programs, but only as one goal among several."

Except for Clinton's, none of the official campaign Web sites appears to mention NASA or human space exploration specifically.

After NASA's three space shuttles are retired in late 2010, the United States will have no spacecraft capable of launching astronauts into orbit -- although the international space station will be reaching completion at that time. American officials have made plans to pay Russia to supply the space station, with the possibility that a private American company or the French Ariane spacecraft may also play a role.

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